The Duke of Soleanna: A caring father concerned for his people, or a selfish, vile man who caused the events of the game?
Mephiles (and by extension Solaris): Angry at the whole world for daring to experiment on him, or destructive Mad God who always wanted to destroy everything?
Do the guards and priests just not care about Elise's well-being? Their Knights and Knaves puzzle and multi-staged test that takes up so much time that the heroes arrive in time to see Elise crash and burn seem to say so.
Is Silver an Idiot Hero who believed Mephiles because he had no common sense, or was he so desperate to save the future, and so tired of constantly fighting Iblis over and over again, that he started grasping for straws (even if said "straw" was the Big Bad)?
Both fights against Mephiles are surprisingly easy considering you can just spam the attack button after you fill up and activate Shadow's Chaos Boost.
Ass Pull: Mephiles proves at the start of the final episode that he can summon all of the Chaos Emeralds to him whenever he wants. This is rather incredible, considering the trouble people normally have to go through to get them, even if he is half of a Physical God. Unfortunately, like many things, this dips into his Complexity Addiction on why he didn't do that in Silver's time, with Iblis right out there.
A lesser but repeatedly used example would be the sudden reveal that not only can two Chaos Emeralds and the usage of Chaos Control allow for time travel at will, but the fact that Silver only sees Chaos Control once and yet apparently can use it perfectly thereafter to create time warps with Sonic and Shadow. Sonic did it too, but this is debatably a worse case. Beyond his first attempt to counter Shadow with it, which results in a time warp in the first place which, conveniently, goes exactly to where Mephiles and Iblis were born in the timeline, Silver never uses Chaos Control as an actual ability, only for the time travel plot.
The final fight with Solaris is generally agreed upon to be the best fight in the game, despite being very easy overall.
The three boss fights against Robotnik's machines (Egg Cerebus, Egg Genesis, and Egg Wyvern) are the best-handled parts of the game. Egg Wyvern is a nice throwback to the Egg Viper fight.
Awesome Music: The one thing that most people genuinely enjoy about this game is the soundtrack, which, in true Sonic tradition, is awesome. Some highlights include Wave Ocean, Aquatic Base, Kingdom Valley, Flame Core, and White Acropolis.
Most of the character themes are pretty great too, but the one that stands out is Silver's theme, Dreams of an Absolution. The original song is great, but the remix on the Several Wills vocal album is something else, especially with Jun Senoue's wonderful guitar work.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Sonic's test of love; Does Sonic love Amy Rose or Princess Elise? You pass the trial, no matter who you choose!? On top of that, The answer has no bearing on the rest of the game.
Bile Fascination: People who play this game today play it to see if it really is that bad.
Broken Base: There's also fans who consider this the closest thing to a "Sonic Adventure 3" due to the similarities it contains in the past Adventure titles while other fans don't consider it as such due to how the game turned out.
Character Rerailment: One of the few saving graces of the game is that it finally gets Shadow's character back on track after several games of nonstop Wangst.
Critical Backlash: A surprisingly large portion of the hate surrounding this game has been met with adamant defenders, with both sides bickering over whether or not it's at least enjoyable.
Damsel Scrappy: Princess Elise, who manages to get kidnapped more times in one game than a good number of video game princesses do over the course of their entire franchises. Another thing your millage may vary on: whether Silver being the cause of half those kidnappings is making things better or worse.
It is not an exaggeration to say that, EVERY time that Sonic isn't looking at her, she gets captured! At one point, she doesn't even need to be captured, but she surrenders herself.
The eyeball-like spheres in the final level, which will spawn in the most inconvenient places and have two variations: one that sucks you towards them for an instant death, and one that throws objects at you at extremely high velocities. They are single-handedly responsible for the majority of game overs in the last level.
The red Eggman Walkers for their tendency to fire homing lasers that are both very fast and hard to avoid, which can quickly turn players into sitting ducks even when they're in the middle of attacking. While they otherwise tend to be rather rare, they are infamous for their ability to easily take the lives of players at least once during The Test Of Courage.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Blaze is this in terms of gameplay with people claiming that she handles way better than everyone and that she runs much faster than Sonic. Unfortunately, you only get to take control of her three times.
Sonic's Red Gem and Purple Gem custom actions. The former slows down enemies (and the timer), while the latter turns him small and allows him to jump forever. And the best part? The meter that Sonic has at the bottom of the screen doesn't work at all, meaning that you can use the Red Gem and the Purple Gem as many times as you want.
The Sky Gem is this as well. See Sequence Breaking on the Video Game page for more information.
Goddamned Bats: Burrowing worms, especially the stronger purple variety.
Goddamned Boss: Iblis Phase 2. You have to hit a purple ball to light it up, provoking Iblis to jump at it and expose his weak spot. However, the platforms the balls float over are far away from where you start, separated by lava. You must wait until Iblis drops stalactites for you to cross the lava, but Iblis can take his sweet time dragging this out. After hitting him, Sonic/Shadow will bounce an unnecessarily long distance away, looping the fight back to be beginning. On top of that, occasionally Iblis will just ignore the ball after you've lit it up. Be prepared to wait several unnecessary minutes for the battle to go anywhere.
The player can glitch through the final door in Silver's version of Dusty Desert by jumping on a box and hovering it towards the door, completely bypassing the infamous Egyptian billiard ball puzzle.
The gauge for Sonic's gem powers never decreases, meaning you can slow time constantly and use constant Metroid-esque Space Jumps to bypass any obstacle.
Some bugs allow you to finish Flame Core as Knuckles, Crisis City as Blaze, and White Acropolis as Tails. The Rank Screen still appears, which is notable with Knuckles, who never gets to finish a level otherwise.
Omega can float upwards if you hit corners just right.
Failing at that you can still rapidly tap the button, turning his gliding power into infinite hovering.
Certain exploits in Silver's and Blaze's movesets allow you to hop through and ignore otherwise lethal water and quicksand areas, provided the player manages to master the timing.
In 2008, there was an "AVGN Reviews Sonic Next-Gen" YouTube Poop (although it has probably since been deleted before YouTube's transition change). Then, in December 2013, Mike Matei gives James a chance to play the game for himself, and he ends up finding it every bit as sad as Mike and the other fans felt. Mike even points out the bad voice acting (and in the poop, the "Jason alarm" clip from the Friday the 13th review was used when Sonic would say certain lines in gameplay).
Ho Yay: Some people cite the Sonic and Shadow interactions in the game to be this. For once, they aren't at each other's throats, but are helping each other find Chaos Emeralds in the future. Further along the track in the game, Shadow rescues Sonic from a potentially fatal situation and fights Silver in his place. Then come the last story, when Sonic is dead, Shadow can't bare to look at Sonic's dead body. Then he takes on the final level of the game, (which is usually the hardest), implying he'd do anything to save Sonic. And during the final battle, when Sonic is low on ring power, rather than saying to get out of his way, Shadow asks Sonic if he's ok. Take of that what you will.
Hype Backlash: Surprisingly, yes. The game didn't get the the best press upon release, and even today, its reputation proceeds it, but before the game came out, Sega really hyped up the game. They promised a lot that was never delivered on. The E3 trailers alone shows features that were never implemented, or cut before release. Even if the game did manage to deliver everything it promised, it's safe to say that the game still wouldn't have been able to live up to the hype—partly due to the Broken Base, but also due to Sega hyping it as the best Sonic game ever created.
Idiot Plot: The entire story depends on the characters taking every single bit of information given by known villains at face value, a completely helpless princess getting repeatedly snatched away by the same exact villain within minuscule time intervals, and everybody completely failing to comprehend the potential applications of their ability to time travel at will.
Magnificent Bastard: Mephiles. He repeatedly screws over the protagonists by manipulating them against each other, knows his limits (as seen when he repeatedly flees from Shadow and Omega), and has backup plans for when his original plan to have Silver kill Sonic fails. All while being an entertaining Large Ham with arguably the only voice actor who seems to be putting effort into his performance.
Mis-blamed: Several Sonic 2006 defenders insist that pokecapn's Let's Play is partly to blame for the expansion of this game's bad reputation. First and foremost, Something Awful's forum rules on Let's Plays dictated at the time that anybody who wanted to LP a game had to wait six months after its release. The reality is that the game had been out for well over a year before pokecapn played it, and in that time it had sold over a million copies and earned a highly negative critical and fan reception on its own. In fact, it was the game's negative reception that motivated pokecapn to play it in the first place, the opening post of the LP explaining that pokecapn started the LP because he had heard the exact same complaints about every other 3D Sonic game before and figured it couldn't have been that bad.
Also Fan Myopia: even if the total views of multiple video hosting sites are combined, it can be assumed that fewer than 100,000 people have seen this Let's Play, and the game had sold well over a million units before the Let's Play even began.
Maddie Blaustein was frequently criticised for her stiff and nasally take on E-123 Omega, which was a far cry from the intimidating deep voice John St Jon gave him. During an interview on Serebii forums, she stated the different take on Omega was according to SEGA's voice direction explanation* She even noted she had problems keeping to their wanted depiction because it too emotionless., with her second take on Omega in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series sounding much more like the original.
IT'S NO USE!! TAKE THIS!! HOW ABOUT THIS!! THIS WILL END IT!!
Nearly all the glitches. The Knuckles wall-climbing glitch, featured on Game Grumps, may be the most infamous.
Shadow's death scream: NOOOOOOO!!!!
The most famous, also due to Game Grumps, is the audio clip that plays each time you speak to a male character in Soleanna, being: "EEEEEY", sounding like a certain catchphrase, just not so extended.
Elise and Sonic's kiss.
NOW LOADING...Explanation The game is infamous for copious amounts of loading screens; sometimes the game will transition into a loading screen, show a small cutscene, then do another loading screen, among other things. One Let's Player kept track of the total time of the loading screens and discovered that in the time throughout the game spent looking at loading screens, one could watch an entire feature-length film. Currently, the game's loading screen is the page image for Loads and Loads of Loading; "The fastest thing alive gets the longest loading screens in existence."
"Silver be a bird!" or "Silver be free to be the bird you always wanted to be!" Explanation Due to Tom Fawkes' live streams where he calls Silver a bird for flapping his arms which makes the lited flight not drain energy as quickly.
Never Live It Down: The fanbase's feelings towards Sonic Team in regards to Elise's kiss. To this day, Sonic-related articles, even in professional media, tend to use snarky lines like "hopefully this time Sonic won't be trading saliva with human females!", just to make sure no one forgives and forgets.
The game itself for the entire Sonic franchise, giving the franchise and Sonic Team a black mark for its infamous glitches and faulty designs that simply refuses to fade away for some people.
Put it this way: When you have seven titles* This game, Unleashed, Colors, Generations, Lost World and especially both episodes of Sonic 4 that were made with the obvious intent to do the impossible task of "Getting back to Sonic's roots", you know a franchise is trying to repair its PR by any means possible.
Narm Charm: The very hammy performances of Dan Green as Mephiles and Jason Griffith as Shadow don't ruin their scenes at all. Quite the contrary, they make them a good bit cooler.
The PS3 version ended up making the (already long) load times even worse, with slowdown issues not present in the Xbox 360 version and a small but noticeable degradation in graphics.
The Xbox 360 version, however, suffers from an abhorrent amount of glitches and bugs that make the game almost impossible to play. While the graphics are slightly better and the loading times are tolerable, the gameplay itself is much worse.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: One of the few good things about this game is Shadow's characterization. With all the Wangst in Shadow the Hedgehog throw out of the window, he's a much more bearable and overall admirable character. While Mephiles attempts to challenge Shadow into questioning his own existence, Shadow becomes a Stoic badass. As Shadow puts it, "I determine my own destiny!" and, "If the world chooses to become my enemy, I will fight like I always have." "THIS is who I am!" indeed. It also helps that, unlike Sonic, his plot and Silver's actually delve into the real conflict of the story, and unlike Silver, his plot isn't driven by stupidity for listening to a Devil in Plain Sight. Also, it was good to see Shadow and Sonic interacting without being at each other's throats for once, even teaming up to use Chaos Control in one scene and the former saving the latter in another.
Princess Elise, mainly due to her overtNeutral Female tendencies and her feelings for Sonic, to the point that she claims at the end that she doesn't care what happens to the world if she has to forget about him. Because of the latter, she's frequently compared to Chris Thorndyke from Sonic X, who is hated for similar reasons. She was written out of the series completely due to the botched effort on her character.
The police guards in the town. They are completely useless and sometimes actively hinder the player's progress by making him play trivial "sidequests" that amount to nothing more than a couple loading screens and dialogue boxes.
Some of Shadow's vehicle sections qualify, as do Silver's infamous billiard ball puzzles in the Dusty Desert stage.
We could very well say every single alternate gameplay style in the whole game aside from Sonic (as he still generally feels like he does in the Adventure games), Shadow and Blaze (both for playing like Sonic). And even then, Sonic's play style is subject to several limitations that he never had before, such as the inability to attack with a simple jump, a nerfed spin dash that you can't cancel out of by jumping, and a comparatively low top speed.
Even those who enjoyed the alternate play styles often admitted it got tedious switching between them mid level, especially since so many got their own levels to begin with (Tails not only has his own variation of Wave Ocean but invades Sonic's).
So Bad, It's Good: Depending on who you ask, this game could be considered this. The glitches are so hilariously broken and a lot of features are left so unfinished that a lot of fun can be had playing around with them.
Squick: A certain cutscene from the Last Episode. In order to resurrect Sonic, Elise gives him an Emerald-powered kiss. This scene was made squicky by the fact that she, a human, kissed a hedgehog, who also happened to be dead. This moment still leaves a bad taste in peoples' mouths and put a severe damper on the Interspecies Romance trope for a while.
It doesn't help that a quirk in the game's ring-dropping mechanics can result in the fight getting stuck in an infinite loop that's only escapable via restarting* Which means the player either has to forfeit a life anyway or wait through the same exact loading screens prior to the fight.
The "Test of Courage" from Sonic's Episode is also an example of sorts. It wouldn't be bad if losing didn't mean you had to go through four loading screens just to try again. And since you don't get any rings...
That One Puzzle: The billiard ball puzzle in Silver's Dusty Desert. You have to maneuver a ball through a long hallway with a 90-degree turn using Silver's very imprecise psychic push move, with bottomless pits everywhere. Not so bad, right? Except the ball ALSO has a timer on it, and the timer decreases by a number of you push the ball too! So, not only do you have to push the ball down the hallway very precisely, you also have to do it in an allotted time AND with as few moves as possible. Many players have been stuck on this puzzle for hours trying to get past it, for something that should have been nothing more than a very quick piece of gameplay. Ironically enough, the Very Hard DLC mission for the stage simply replaces it with a gauntlet of enemies and pits.
To make matters worse, immediately after solving it, the game negates your progress and dumps you back in Soleanna without so much as a transition. Yep, that whole awful stage was pointless.
Taking her backstory into account, Princess Elise. The past reveals that the Duke of Soleanna sealed Iblis inside of her when she was just a little girl and told her that she shouldn't cry or else the world will be destroyed. Although her character arc involves her opening up and being more expressive, it's never shown how much this act of bottling up her sadness and other emotions affected her, instead focusing on her being a Living MacGuffin and having an apparent crush on Sonic.
Mephiles as well. While he stands as probably the only consistently well-acted and well-written character in the whole game (other than perhaps Shadow, though YMMV on his acting), his motives for his goal are incredibly vague aside from an off-hand comment from Shadow, who believes that he craves destruction. Also, Fridge Brilliance suggests that he does have a reason for screwing around with the protagonists the way he does, but again, it's left completely unexplained.
And, potentially to some, Sonic himself, as mentioned in Trapped by Mountain Lions below. While Shadow directly confronts the mystery behind Mephiles and Silver eventually tags with him to see the origins of Mephiles' and Iblis' separation from each other as Solaris, Sonic spends his entire storyline repeatedly saving Elise, who gets captured at least five times, often as soon as Sonic turns his back after the last rescue. He only barely learns of Iblis and Elise's connection to it, and otherwise keeps fighting Eggman over and over; although it's certainly a decent conclusion between the two, Sonic essentially did little else besides possibly save the world in a way that isn't quite directly acknowledged. And he doesn't even get much of his attitude or one-liners, either.
Then there's Blaze. Her levels are praised as being the most polished and glitch-free in the game, with actual speedy gameplay (Game Grumps described her as "fast Sonic") and some surprisingly cool moves. They're also short and desperately infrequent, and surrounded by lengthy, boring levels of Silver trying to not make the physics engine spontaneously combust.
And Blaze's character could have been improved on as well. Taking Sonic Rush into account, maybe Blaze could have transported to Silver's future somehow, become friends with him and want to help him save the world. Then, once she finds out that Sonic is supposedly the cause of the bad future, she could be reluctant to try and kill him. Then, when Team Sonic spots Mephiles, Silver and Blaze talking when they reach the control room, they could be upset that Blaze had betrayed them, and Tails, Knuckles and perhaps Shadow and Rouge could promise to not let them kill Sonic at all costs... which could be a good lead into the cutscene where Shadow comes to Sonic's aid.
Blaze is the new living seal of Iblis! And now she's gone to another dimension! This had potential... then the reset button got pushed.
For some who genuinely liked the game, they feel that SEGA had done this when they pushed the Reset Button at the end of the story.
The idea of Elise herself. What could have been, attached to a less convoluted plot with more room for down time, a cohesive and evenhanded analysis of Sonic fans or the Furry Fandom in general, instead just becomes completely uncomfortable and kind of vapid.
Once they realize how to do it, Sonic, Shadow and Silver theoretically could time travel however they damn well want and with seemingly no limitations - it even doubles as convenient teleportation! This could easily become a Story-Breaker Power given the implications. Instead they don't even think to actually use it properly, and when Elise and Eggman die due to the Egg Carrier crashing, Sonic only succeeds in averting this at the last second when he could've essentially warped there from the start. They could've even made the carrier the final stage. Instead he warps back to an hour beforehand in Soleanna, has to find a secret entrance to the kingdom's labs, and only barely catches the Egg Carrier for the sake of what can be interpreted as being dramatic.
Uncanny Valley: The rather realistic looking humans looked out of place next to the Felix the Cat-inspired designs of our anthropomorphic heroes. NPCs will wave their limbs and heads around in a pale imitation of natural human movement, and Princess Elise herself looks more like a porcelain doll with the in-game graphics.
Even Eggman was redesigned to look consistent with the humans, although some appreciated that they got rid of the doctor's chicken legs.
Thankfully, Sonic titles that came after this steered clear out of the valley by designing resident humans to look more cartoony (and with this, the return of Eggman's chicken legs and his appearance from Sonic Adventure on).
In preproduction, developers toyed around with the idea of giving the animal characters realistic fur shading. This ended up not being used until the Werehog was conceptualized.
The Sonic characters themselves look like lifeless dolls with their faces barely animated as they make incredibly stiff motions as if someone was controlling them like a puppet.
Mephiles seems to be a deliberate case, with his ragdoll-esque movements and lack of mouth.
Visual Effects of Awesome: It's hard to deny that the CG cutscenes, especially the festival in the introduction, look amazing. Too bad the rest of the game doesn't look as good...
In Sonic's Story, Robotnik tells Sonic that he shall give him the Princess, in exchange for the Chaos Emerald. Sonic, Tails & Knuckles all agree that it definitely sounds like a trap, and that Robotnik shall not keep his side of the bargain. What do they do? Walk straight into said trap and give the Emerald to Robotnik! Oh, And the surprise? It WAS a trap and he wasn't going to keep his side of the bargain!